A report by Bristol academics has found young people from poorer backgrounds who attend summer schools are 50% more likely to go on to top universities than their peers.
The report by Dr Tony Hoare and Rosanna Mann at the University of Bristol looked at 1,750 students who attended summer schools at Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford and St Andrews universities in 2008 and 2009.
It compared their university application and acceptance rates with those of thousands of other students in a range of control groups.
The report, The Impact of the Sutton Trust’s Summer Schools, found that more than three quarters (76%) of the Sutton Trust summer school attendees went on to a leading university.
The Sutton Trust aims to improve educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and to increase social mobility.
Its summer schools were started at Oxford University in 1997 by Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl to help children from non-privileged backgrounds access leading universities. During the week they attend lectures, tutorials and take part in social activities as if they were students.
More than 10,000 young students have passed through the programme, and summer schools now run at Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial, Nottingham, St Andrews and UCL universities – since 2010 Oxford University has run its own summer school based on the Sutton model.
“I was pleased with the results. The word on the street from the universities was that summer schools worked, but until now the evidence was anecdotal,” said Dr Hoare.
“Not only does the summer school experience encourage all attendees to target the more elite universities, but what is particularly encouraging is that they reduce, sometimes to vanishing point, the greater reluctance of the more underprivileged groups to do so.”
Amy Sugden, 19, who attended a summer school at Bristol then went on to the university to study for a BSc in childhood studies, told The Guardian: “Previous to the summer school, I’d never left Torquay, and going to a different place was exciting – the environment at university, which was more independent. You can do your own thing.
“I honestly thought there was no option for me to go to university. No one in my family had ever been. My mum doesn’t work and her partner is disabled. I didn’t see any option but to go into work after A-levels.”